Lost in translation: the struggle to hear in noisy environments

While the clatter, hubbub and din at any restaurant or family gathering can challenge even the best of hearing, for some it can be a real struggle to hear speech or follow a conversation in a noisy environment.

An audiologist is generally the first port of call to assess hearing ability and determine any loss. In some cases however, results from the hearing test (called an audiogram ) will be normal.

What then?

There are a number of theories why a hearing test might return a normal result despite someone struggling to hear in noise.

Hidden Hearing Loss, for example, describes problems with the transmission of signals between the hair cells in the ear and the hearing nerve in the brain.

High Frequency Hearing Loss offers another potential explanation, where damage to hair cells in the ear is greater than what the standard audiogram can measure.

Despite both conditions being responsible for hearing loss, recent scientific studies have found in the average population, neither condition undermines someone’s ability to understand speech in a noisy environment.

What else could be responsible?

Researchers believe the answer lies in the central nervous system, where difficulty hearing in a loud environment could be linked to the brain, rather than the ear.

Science shows us acoustic encoding (the process of remembering and interpreting what you hear ) and cognitive abilities (how you learn, remember, problem solve and pay attention ) are strongly linked to the ability to hear speech in loud environments and that certain exercises can even improve hearing in noise.

If you struggle to hear in noisy environments, The Hearing Company’s fully qualified audiologist Peter Maguire can test your hearing, identify the cause of your hearing difficulty and offer helpful strategies to improve your hearing experience. Phone (094 ) 902 5672 to make an appointment at our Castlebar, Westport or Ballina clinic and get your hearing back on track.


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